a·while (ə-wīl, -hwīl)
For a short time.
Usage Note: The adverb awhile and the noun phrase a while can lead to confusion because they sound the same and the noun phrase can function like an adverb. Noun phrases denoting time periods can often be used as adverbs, as one day in We'll move to Seattle one day. The same is true for a while. Thus Let's stop and rest a while is correct, since a while is here equivalent to "one day" in the previous phrase. Similarly, Let's stop and rest awhile is correct, where awhile functions as an adverb with a similar function to phrases like for an hour. · Care should be taken with prepositional phrases. Only a while can follow a preposition in a prepositional phrase, since only noun phrases can be the objects of prepositions. Thus I'll stay for a while is acceptable, but not I'll stay for awhile. (Note that if the preposition is dropped, both I'll stay a while and I'll stay awhile are acceptable, since the noun phrase a while can be used adverbially.)
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2020 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.